26 September 2013, News Wires – Greenpeace has vowed to appeal 60-day detentions handed down by a Russian court to most of the activists involved in last week’s attempted boarding of an oil platform in the Arctic.
28 protestors, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer from 18 different countries appeared in Lenin district court in Murmansk, according to BBC reports and updates from the environmental campaign group.
22 of those who appeared in court were detained for two months pending an investigation into piracy charges, while eight were detained for three days pending a new hearing, the group said.
Greenpeace International said it would “lodge an appeal seeking the immediate release of those detained”.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said the activists’ actions were justified by what he called “the abject failure of governments around the world to protect their people from the threat of climate change”.
“The Arctic is melting before our eyes, and these brave activists stand in defiance of those who wish to exploit this unfolding crisis to drill for more oil,” he said.
The activists were rounded up by armed Russian security officers who stormed their vessel Arctic Sunrise after last week’s abortive effort to scale the Prirazlomnaya platform at the Gazprom Neft Shelf-operated Prirazlomnoye oilfield in the Pechora Sea, due to be brought online later this year.
The Dutch-registered vessel was subsequently towed to Murmansk, with Russian prosecutors looking to press charges of piracy against the activists.
The group is arguing that potential piracy charges are unjustified and that Russian special forces boarded its vessel illegally.
While President Vladimir Putin has conceded the campaigners “are obviously not pirates”, he insisted they were still in violation of international law despite claims by the environmental group it was a peaceful protest and that its ship was illegally boarded by the Russians while in international waters.
The charge of piracy reportedly carries a prison term of up to 15 years in Russia.
Greenpeace’s general counsel Jasper Teulings has said that “piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests”.
An investigator at the hearing was tweeted as saying the activists had “the purpose of seizing property with the threat of violence”.
Greenpeace said that all the activists had now been questioned in the presence of lawyers, having earlier been allegedly denied access to legal counsel while being held on the vessel.
Meanwhile, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans is said by the group to have demanded that the Russian authorities release the vessel and its detained crew, or face possible legal action that is being considered by his government.